Charidimos (Harry) Demetriou came to poker late in life, but he’s pursued it with the passion and focus that led him to other challenges in life. His penchant for fearless betting was crafted through the tough path of betting on horses and soccer, and the will to move on pots and players has served him well in poker. He’s also fearless when he determines an injustice is occurring in a poker tournament, making his view known and working to correct the situation even to his detriment.
This is the first of a two part series. The first article is about his background and poker play. The second article will be about his view on some of the controversies in this year’s World Series of Poker.
CC: Tell us where you are from and your life before poker.
Demetriou: I was born in London, England in 1958 and the UK is still my primary residence although I tend to travel around quite a bit.
I have always been into horse racing and soccer betting, but for many years I worked in the Biochemistry Department of Pathology within Hospitals in the UK as this was what my degrees and qualifications were primarily designed for.
CC: What initiated your interest in poker?
Demetriou: Having a group of friends who were gamblers and backgammon players who decided to take up poker. I had also seen John Duthie win the inaugural Ladbrokes Poker Million on TV (held in The Isle of Man) and a show called Late Night Poker which I found interesting in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s
CC: What stakes and where did you play starting out?
Demetriou: Aside from one or two sessions at $4/$8 holdem and $1-$5 Stud in the very late 90’s when I first started coming to Las Vegas and didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing, I never really started out playing or even learning poker until early Summer 2001. I sat down in a $15-$30 limit holdem game with Paul Magriel and he was shocked to discover that I knew nothing about poker. He then gave me a poker lesson and a couple of books to read after which I played $15/30 limit holdem for around 3 months and then graduated to $30/60. These days I play various cash games from $60/120 and upwards including Omaha Hi/Lo but rarely play any stud as games do not seem to exist.
CC: Tell us about how you decided to head to the 2002 World Series of Poker with such little experience under your belt.
Demetriou: I really didn’t start playing until around Sept 2001, but in November 2001 I decided to enter Poker Millions 2 which was to take place in March 2002. Unfortunately that tournament was cancelled in late Feb 2002 and so I had to find a tournament in which to play and headed off to the WSOP in April 2002 and entered the first no limit holdem event.
CC: You came in 3rd in that event, your first WSOP event you ever entered. Being up against the winner of the event, Layne Flack, would be tough for anyone. Looking back four years later, tell us about the final table experience.
Demetriou: I got to a position where it was 3 handed and I was chip leader with around 520k. Layne Flack had around 300k and Tom Jacobs 50k. I then blew all my chips and finished third for a great debut in tournaments. I recall JJ Lieu (Bortner at the time) being in second place chip wise and always reraising me causing me to fold. I decided to wait and eventually got her to go all in against me with 10-10when holding K-K. That was sweet and gave me good chips. I also recall having Mark Gregorich to my immediate left. The main thing I remember however was that it was a really enjoyable experience and that I knew little or nothing about poker. Looking back I am amazed I got that far as I made numerous major blunders. However I did discover that as I kept betting a lot others kept folding a lot so ever since I have tried to maximize on this fold equity as it is something that cannot be taught – namely that you have to be the bettor and often this is regardless of the hand you are holding.
CC: You cashed three times late in 2002. What were the keys to your success really as a new player?
Demetriou: I was ignorant and didn’t have a clue but the bottom line was that I was fearless and prepared to bet.
CC: You’ve cashed each year you’ve played at the World Series, and you’ve made at least one final table except for 2004, when you went out in 18th at the Main Event. I’d like to ask a few questions about how you focus on tournaments. First, tell us how you prepare now for a tournament.
Demetriou: I try and lose weight by working out regularly and watching what I eat and ensuring I get into the USA or elsewhere in plenty of time to adjust to the differing time zone. I then get into a sleep pattern that best suits the tournament so that I will overall be mentally and physically in better shape than the majority of my rivals. Sometimes I also read a poker book or two to get me in the right mental analytical state or play a couple of warm up smaller tournaments where I may experiment with a play or two and get in the poker tournament groove.
CC: Your cashes are consistently deep, most similar probably to John Juanda (18 of his first 22 cashes were final tables). What do you think has led to this success for you?
Demetriou: I am very, very disciplined and do not go on tilt. I tend to go deeper into the money and actually make fewer cashes than others because the real money is in the top few spots. By shooting for first I make fewer cashes as I tend to bust out earlier than others but the payback is that when I cash I get bigger amounts as I invariably give myself a shot at the big money. It is incredibly flattering to be mentioned in the same breath as John Juanda.
CC: In the 2004 WSOP Main Event, tell us first about your tournament leading up to the final 32 players.
Demetriou: I had made numerous lay downs of Jacks and a couple of times Queens pre flop. To be honest, everything was fairly straightforward except for Day 2. I had gone up and down like a yo-yo where I kept building my stack up only to get a bad beat before having to fight back up again. It was the toughest day of my life, but overall it was all fairly straightforward for the first three days except for having to constantly move tables on Days 3 and 4. A big part of my game is setting people up for plays at higher levels later in the day, and this is something I cannot do if I am constantly moved around.
CC: That last day you were almost on the average chip number to start the day. I think you became well known in the US with your play vs. Josh Arieh. It’s been a couple years now, but first tell us how your last day went.
Demetriou: It did not go well at all as I busted out in joint 18th
I could easily have been chip leader but for a solitary hand against Josh, but then that’s poker. Even after that critical hand the very next one still could have allowed me to make a recovery but once again I lost out (My AK v Josh’s A7 in a Blind v Blind all in. I guess it was just not meant to be. Other than that, there were a couple of other hands late the previous day including one I misplayed against Marcel Luske. He was doing a lot of re-raising, and I was frustrating him by re-raising which caused him to make a weak call with KJ v my re-raise holding QQ. He hit the K on the flop but checked blind in advance and I made the mistake of checking behind him. That pot cost me around 400k and it was a very big pot at that stage of the tourney. I also busted Matthew Hilger with a pair of 2’s after re-raising him all in after he raised on the button with KQ. I thought he was on tilt after getting Aces cracked by 10-10 but the reality was he was playing on the tight side.
CC: What were the key hands down the stretch, including the dominant play vs. Arieh that busted you out?
Demetriou: I mentioned two above and the very final hand but to be honest everything other than those weren’t that critical and played themselves. I tended to dominate my tables by continually raising or reraising which made opponents uncomfortable.
As for the key A-J hand v Josh’s ; Josh came in with a raise under the gun and John Murphy called with what I assumed was a pair, and I called in the big blind getting around 4 or 4.5/1. The flop came A-K-Q with 2 hearts and I wanted to check re-raise John Murphy as I felt if I checked and Josh followed John would bet. Unfortunately, Josh bet half his stack and John folded so then I took forever to decide if I was drawing dead or in front of Josh. I decided I was in front of Josh and put him all in which caused him to make a crying call as he was pot committed. I was correct in my thinking (if not in the way I played the hand) and got unlucky as he made the flush on the river with the 6h. Without that heart I would have been chip leader or at least up there as it was a 2 million or so pot.
CC: You’ve had great tournament results around the world since 2002, with particular success in the last two years in short-handed tournaments at the World Series. Do you spend most of your time and resources on tournaments?
Demetriou: Not really. Tournaments are very volatile and quite expensive. Fortunately they have been self funding but I play nowhere near as many as other players. For me it is a hobby and this year I will spend less than $200k on entries. My rival players often spend more than double this and often more than $500k each year but for me it is very much a hobby from which I derive a great deal of pleasure.
CC: You won a big tournament in the UK in 2004, but you’re still looking for your first major US tournament win. You’ve been close both to a WPT crown earlier this year, as well as have approached taking your first bracelet. Is winning about circumstances or are there improvements you need to make to get there?
Demetriou: I really have a great deal of improvement left in me, but for some reason I seem to adopt the wrong game plan at some of the final tables in which I have played. Everyone obviously needs to get some luck along the way but I am very disappointed whenever I have failed to win at a final table. Sometimes I will just get unlucky (nothing I can do about that) but it hurts when I contribute to an exit. Most tournament defeats are self inflicted but I can only hope that I learn from my mistakes and often even when I win hands I discuss alternate plays with friends as many successful plays are incorrect when considered in hindsight.
CC: Tell us about your involvement in Martins Poker.
Demetriou: Martin de Knijff is a friend and I lost a bet to him for $100 in which I had to wear his shirt at future tournaments until I win one. Unfortunately I also have to pay him (several thousand which varies depending on how close I get) if I am seen at a feature table and then fail to go on and win that event. If I win wearing it, I get all my losses back, but to date this has cost me more than $80,000.
CC: I’ve had a chance to play at the Gutshot in London, as well as other rooms in Europe. Do you get to play live in England much?
Demetriou: I hardly play in the UK and Europe as I travel around so much, but this is something that I hope will change later this year. I would like to win another high profile event in Europe and specifically an EPT (European Poker Tour) event so I am going to spend the rest of 2006 after the WSOP trying to do so.
CC: Finally, what are your objectives for the rest of this year?
Demetriou: Aside from winning a WPT event (I played at Mirage and Mandalay Bay cashing in both and am likely to play a further 3 or 4 this year) I want to win an EPT event. I also need to get as many Player of the Year points as possible. John Gale, a good friend and fellow player from the UK, has an ongoing bet with me. A signed $100 bill goes to the best player from across the pond, and it has to be signed by the other with words to that effect. He has framed my $100 that I gave to him last year and I intend to get him back this year and the result is based on the Player of The Year points. It would be nice to be top placed European on that list or even better make the top 10 or even 20 but this is nigh on impossible as I cannot play enough events to realistically compete.
I can always dream of getting lucky in the remaining events though.